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Heart of a Husky
Release: 02/03/2004
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by Lucas James Mack

Only a select few have been fortunate enough to walk the path.

Those who have, know that being a quarterback at Washington takes more than just talent - it takes heart.

Sure, Cody Pickett has talent - his 4,458 passing yards in 2002 shattered the Pac-10 single-season record, and his 10,037 career yards make him just the fourth Pac-10 signalcaller to surpass the 10,000-yard milestone. However, it is not his rifle arm or speedy legs that make the Husky senior quarterback remarkable. Instead it is his tough-as-nails demeanor and indomitable heart that are his greatest strengths.

"Kids that watch Cody play know how tough he is and that says a lot about his character," says Sonny Sixkiller, a Husky legend in his own right and one who knows a thing or two about being a role model for young UW fans. "Young people look at his desire to compete and they admire his toughness and leadership."

It's not what people say about themselves that merits attention; it's the comments by those who know them or have experienced their path, that paints a true picture of who they are. To understand the real Pickett - the one who says little about his own accomplishments while praising those who have helped mold his career - it is important to talk to those who know him best.

"People don't know what he does for our state, visiting hospitals and fundraisers," says Bill Cooper, Pickett's head football coach at Caldwell High School. "This summer he came to our camp and spoke to 500 kids. He talked about grades, attitude and how you only get out of something as much as you put into it."

Perhaps because he is so guarded about his private life, few fans have ever seen the Cody Pickett that exists away from the football field, visiting community centers and working with children of all ages.

"He comes and helps out our quarterbacks here at the high school and takes time to work with them," Cooper says. "It really shows how selfless he is. It's the time that he gives to the kids and the community that people don't see."

Just as he motivates the children with whom he works during the offseason, his teammates at Washington say he inspires them to greatness as well.

"Cody does a great job of bringing us together and pushing us to get better," explains junior fullback Zach Tuiasosopo. "He really carries us."

Pickett carries the team, healthy or hurt. The son of 1984 Rodeo World Champion Cowboy Dee Pickett, the Husky quarterback learned at a young age that true competitors do not give up when thrown off their horse - instead, they get back on and try again.

"He's a tough, tough guy and leader, too," says offensive tackle Khalif Barnes. "Everyone looks up to Cody to get the job done. He's like Steve Young or Brett Favre. He is a tough player and doesn't let things get him down."

During the 2001 season, Pickett suffered a separated shoulder in a game against USC. After just one week away, Pickett returned to throw for a school-record 455 yards and three touchdowns, before finishing off a come-from-behind win by lowering his shoulder and barreling into the end zone for a touchdown in the final minute.

"He is a guy that has competed and has never been shy to put his shoulder down when a situation dictated it and throw his body in there," says former Husky and NFL quarterback Hugh Millen. "He is representing himself well. His whole approach to the game is a credit to him and to the university."

Some say the worst thing a college quarterback can do is have a huge junior season, as he'll then be expected to top it as a senior. Pickett, however, is no stranger to pressure, having been asked as an untested sophomore to replace one of the greatest quarterbacks ever to wear the purple and gold - Marques Tuiasosopo.

Having once been in Pickett's shoes, Tuiasosopo can relate to the pressures of the position.

"There are a lot of high expectations on a Husky quarterback, just based on the history of the position at Washington," explains Tuiasosopo, now in his third year with Oakland Raiders. "When I was here, I wanted to uphold the quarterback traditions, with guys like Warren Moon, Hugh Millen, Cary Conklin and Mark Brunell. There are a lot of guys that have played well, and you don't want to be the one guy that no one remembers.

"There is a lot of pressure, but I think that Cody has shown that he can get through it," Tuiasosopo continues. "Being a quarterback, you have to go out there and play Husky football - play as a unit and as a team. You're in a place where you want to play really well, and take pride in that."

Fans don't need anyone to tell them what kind of a person Pickett is, however - his spirit is evident in his play.

"You have to lead by example and when you need plays, you have to be the guy who steps up and moves the ball up and down the field in the clutch situations," Tuiasosopo says. "A good example is against Oregon State. When their backs were against the wall, he came through. That's the leadership that he has brought to this team. When things weren't going well, he was able to step up and provide some big-time plays."

Many young football players dream of strapping on the gold helmet with the purple "W" on the side and proudly taking the field at Husky Stadium. Those who turn those dreams into a reality, however, are the ones who have that special quality - heart - that turns good players into great ones.

It is that heart that drives Pickett to improve, to give his best on every drive. It's a quality that can't be measured by boxscores or statistics - but then, personal glory is not what Pickett is all about.

"He doesn't need the headlines," says Cooper. "It's the little things that make Cody Pickett great."

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